There are certain advantages to being an author, such as getting review copies of books, and an amazing one landed in my mailbox this week: Math Lab for Kids by Rebecca Rapoport and J.A. Yoder. (Disclosure: the authors are friends of mine.) It’s the perfect gift for any budding mad scientist because it showcases the creative side of math.
My children are notoriously difficult to influence. Recommending a book is a great way to ensure that they will not read it. They will, however, pick up books left lying around or sneak them off my shelves. So when Math Lab for Kids arrived, I resisted the urge to say, “Look! Cool Math Stuff(TM)! Let’s do it!” Instead, I stealthily left it in plain sight in the living room. Later that afternoon, my 12-year-old spotted it. She picked it up, flipped through it, said, “This looks cool,” and then got distracted and left it on the dining room table. My 9-year-old found it there the next morning.
“Is that interesting?” I asked.
No response, but about five minutes later, she said, “Mom? Can I have some toothpicks?”
“I already gave them to you for your book report diorama.”
“Oh.” She finished her breakfast and wandered off.
These were promising results. So after dinner this evening, I broke my own rule. “Hey,” I said, trying to be cool and casual about it, “wanna do some math puzzles with me?”
“Sure,” said my 12-year-old. “It looks like fun.” I managed not to drop my jaw on the floor.
More typically, my 9-year-old employed her favorite word, “No,” and went to her room. But five minutes later, as her sister and I were discussing the lab we’d chosen to do, she came back and joined in anyway.
We picked out Lab 17: Creative Curves. In this lab, we draw geometric figures and then use needle and thread to sew lines across it such that they look like curves. The girls were all over this, selecting colors and patterns. I drew the patterns for them and numbered the points. My 12-year-old took to it like a fish, completing her first figure quickly, then cutting it out of the cardstock and hanging it proudly on our Christmas tree.
My 9-year-old had a tougher time, with frequent mistakes. When bedtime rolled around, she hadn’t completed her figure. “It’s okay,” I told her. “You can finish it tomorrow.”
She looked me right in the eye. “NO.” It took me a good half-hour to finally get her to stop sewing and go to bed.
Meanwhile, my 12-year-old had chosen a far more challenging figure to try. After several false starts, we figured out how to draw it on the cardstock, mark out the points, and she got sewing. And then bedtime rolled around. “But it’s the weekend,” she insisted. “Can’t I stay up a little late? Pleeeeeease?” But we bundled her off to bed anyway.
That’s right, folks. I HAD TO FORCE MY KIDS TO STOP DOING MATH AND GO TO BED.
I can hardly wait to try another lab. The Mobius strip lab looks fantastic. I expect Koch snowflakes to join the curve stitching on our tree. And I’m really intrigued by the graph theory. This is going to be a fantastic Christmas vacation.
So if you’re looking for the perfect gift for your young mad scientist, or you just want to get a kid interested in math, I highly recommend this book. Apparently, other readers agree. It’s currently Amazon’s #1 new release in Children’s General Study Aid Books. Order fast, and you can have it under your tree, too.